Department-store sales fell again in the latest quarter, though they were better than analysts' expectations: Macy's (M) - Get Report is down 13% and Kohl's (KSS) - Get Report is down 10% after reporting before the open Thursday. J.C. Penney (JCP) - Get Report  reports next -- before the bell Friday. The chart hints at what investors should expect.

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Kohl's has been the best performing of the big three brick-and-mortar stores, up 7.5% over the last year, with Macy's and J.C. Penney down 35% and 46%, respectively, in that time. But even Kohl's the better performer over time has not been immune to today's sector downdraft, and that does not speak well for JCP in Friday's session.

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The sharp decline in JCP stabilized in May and June with the stock trading in a narrow horizontal channel. It looked like it had formed a base in mid-July after it broke above its 50-day moving average and channel resistance in the $5.00 area, but was unable to capitalize on the move with any significant follow-through strength. This week it began to retreat and, with today's sympathetic price action, has moved back below previous levels to channel resistance-turned-support and below the 50 day average.

The decline has been accompanied by above-average volume and the Chaikin oscillator, a 3-period and 10-period average of the accumulation/distribution line, is crossing below its centerline suggesting selling pressure. The next level of support on the chart is the channel bottom at the $4.25 level; it is likely that level will be tested Friday, baring a much better-than-expected earnings report. The question is: Will this level hold, or will the stock make a new all-time low?

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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.